Toronto artist Heather Graham’s exhibit, “Reminds Me of M”, on now at Peel Art Gallery Museum and Archives (PAMA), is a thought-provoking collection of pieces which convey a theme of time and memory and the interconnection between them.
Through paintings and videos, Graham represents time in a manner that captures its fleetingness. She attempts to allow her audience to draw their own memories from her work by providing what she refers to as “blanks for the viewer to fill in, as a way to project onto my artwork.” Her unique techniques create the necessary distance between the subject and the audience so that they have space to reflect on personal experiences, feelings or thoughts.
Graham’s series of grey and white paintings of anonymous human faces portray an almost ghostly quality that comes into focus only when standing at a distance. As one approaches, the images dissolve to represent the changes that occur with the passage of time and our inevitable mortality. The technique of using rags to wipe away some of the paint used to form the image creates the fading effect.
A delicate veil of white paint over Graham’s colourful series of female images softens the distinct outlines of the subjects and again leaves room for reflection by the audience. Doodles and stencils of leaves and flowers over the images were inspired by a memorial tree decorated with colourful ribbons that she discovered by chance at a park a couple of years prior.
In Graham’s videos, the interplay of light and shadows along with shapes that transform themselves into blurred and mysterious visions are intended to symbolize a continuous state of change which allows for interpretation by the viewer. A recording, subtly playing in the background, was one that Graham unwittingly made while working on the video of a telephone conversation with a beloved aunt suffering from memory loss. The recording was thought by the artist to be a fitting touch to the presentation, as the flickers of sunlight captured in the video are intended to mimic memories as they enter our thoughts.
Even the exhibit’s title, “Reminds Me of M”, is intended to give the audience pause for reflection. “I wanted my title to be about the subject of memory, and I also wanted to leave room for the viewer to have a personal experience.” By including only one letter, Graham hopes that the viewer will fill in the title because the exhibit, or even a particular piece within the collection, reminds them of a particular person or experience.
Graham is energetically moving on to her next artistic endeavour which will have a theme of climate change. In some ways, this is a new direction for Graham who admits “I don’t ever want to be an artist that repeats myself and gets in a comfort zone. I want to be scared.” This commitment to challenge oneself and constantly evolve as an artist is valuable advice she shares with her students at Seneca College.
Despite the shift, Graham also sees climate change as having a very relevant connection to the passage of time and fragility of the human condition, both elements that remain consistent in her work.
“Reminds Me of M” on now at PAMA, 9 Wellington St. E., Brampton until March 18. Artist Talk with Heather Graham at PAMA, March 4, 2-4 p.m. For information: www.pama.peelregion.ca.
Image: Flowers for A, painting by Heather Graham now on exhibit at PAMA.